Corporate Governing: Promises and Risks of Corporations as Socio-Economic Reformers

Corporate Governing: Promises and Risks of Corporations as Socio-Economic Reformers

Matteo Gatti

Series number :

Serial Number: 
730/2023

Date posted :

September 13 2023

Last revised :

September 27 2023
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Keywords

  • Corporations • 
  • stakeholder capitalism • 
  • stakeholderism • 
  • ESG • 
  • CSR • 
  • Social Activism • 
  • Corporate governance • 
  • politics • 
  • Corporate Lobbying • 
  • Corporate purpose • 
  • corporate law • 
  • corporate constituencies • 
  • Shareholder primacy • 
  • Corporate Speech • 
  • Social Advocacy

Corporations are involved in public affairs: racial equity, women’s rights, LGBTQIA rights, climate efforts are just a few examples of an increasingly long list of areas in which corporations are active and vocal. One phenomenon is well-known: corporations promote, contrast, or finetune governmental initiatives through political messaging.

In addition, corporations perform quasi-governmental functions when the actual government cannot (because of its dysfunction) or does not want to (because of its political credo) perform such functions. Economists, legal scholars, and policymakers are split as to whether corporations should take this role.

This Paper contributes to the literature in several ways. First, it maps various areas of reform by corporations in the socio-economic sphere. Then, it provides legal and policy frameworks for corporate governing by analyzing the underlying conducts under our current laws and by evaluating its multifaceted normative merits: Is there a business case for corporate governing? Is corporate governing strategically wise for corporations? Does it help social advocacy and society at large? Does corporate governing undermine actual government and imperil democratic institutions? Further, this Paper assesses corporate governing by looking into its promises and risks from a corporate and from a societal perspective and singles out two risks. First, corporate governing cannot help society in fields in which corporations have a conflicting interest, like on themes such as antitrust, tax, labor, privacy, financial and corporate reform. Second, with corporations having a greater role in policymaking, citizens may become less accustomed to expecting reform via traditional politics: addressing this risk requires efforts from citizens, civil society, and politicians to preserve democratic values and institutions—corporate governance can help but cannot be the driving force.

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